18 ways to keep blood pressure in check
You can’t see it, you can’t feel it and, unless you get it checked, you won’t even know you have it. That makes high blood pressure, or hypertension, a quiet killer, one that slowly damages your blood vessels, heart and eyes while simultaneously increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia and kidney disease. Could you be at risk of high blood pressure and not know it? The following tips will help to lower high blood pressure, or keep it from rising if it’s at a healthy level.
1. Every morning, take a brisk 15-minute walk
Amazingly, you don’t need a lot of exercise to make a difference to your blood pressure.
When Japanese researchers asked 168 inactive volunteers with high blood pressure to exercise at a health club for different amounts of time each week for eight weeks, blood pressure levels dropped almost as much in those who exercised for 30 to 90 minutes a week as in those who exercised for more than 90 minutes a week.
Did you know that moderate-intensity activity, such as going for a brisk walk, releases ‘happy hormones’? The sort that reduce stress and make you feel like you are on holiday.
2. Write ‘take medication’ on your calendar every day
Twenty-five per cent of the time, when your blood pressure hasn’t gone down after you’ve been prescribed medication, the reason is that you’ve forgotten to take your pills.
Medication only works if you take it. Here are four reasons why it’s important to stick with what the doctor orders.
3. Buy a home blood-pressure kit
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that home blood-pressure testing can provide a better overall picture of blood pressure levels than readings in a doctor’s surgery.
In the study, surgery readings failed to identify 13 per cent of patients who had high blood pressure only when measured in the surgery (white-coat hypertension), and 9 per cent who had high blood pressure at home but not in the surgery.
In addition, a study presented at the 2004 European Society of Hypertension meeting found that people who monitored their blood pressure at home had lower overall blood pressure than those who had their pressure taken only at the doctor’s surgery.
These days, taking one’s own health seriously and monitoring it is important. Three DIY health checks to help you catch other potential problems early.
4. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of linseed on your morning yoghurt
Mix 2 tablespoons into your ice-cream, soup, pasta sauce or other food later in the day.
One small study found that adding 4 tablespoons of the seeds significantly lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number) in postmenopausal women with a history of heart disease.
Linseeds are rich in many nutrients and in fibre.
5. Drink tea instead of coffee
An Australian study found that each 1-cup increase in daily tea consumption decreased systolic blood pressure by 2 points and diastolic pressure by 1 point.
But the benefits ended after 4 cups.
Different teas have very distinct characteristics, which can affect not only how they are drunk, but at what time of day.
6. Dip corn chips in guacamole
Why? Avocados have more blood pressure-lowering potassium than any other fruit or vegetable, including bananas.
We should get about 3500 mg a day of potassium, but one in three women usually gets just half this amount.
Here are links to some more delicious avocado recipes:
Papaya and avocado salad
7. Satisfy a sweet tooth with dark chocolate
Unlike milk chocolate, dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids that keep your arteries flexible, preventing the increases in pressure that come with stiffer blood vessels.
That’s thought to be one reason for the normal blood pressure of a tribe of indigenous Panamanians who eat a high-salt diet but also consume massive amounts of cocoa.
In addition, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 85 g of dark chocolate a day helped to lower blood pressure in older people with isolated systolic hypertension (when only the upper number of a pressure reading is high).
Other good sources of flavonoids include tea and wine, as well as many fruits and vegetables.
8. Snack on soy nuts for a crunchy, nutrient-packed munch
Studies show that people with high blood pressure can lower their systolic readings by an average of 10 points by eating 30 g of soy nuts (roasted soybeans) a day for two weeks.
The beans are available at some supermarkets and health food shops. Make sure you buy them unsalted.
Spiced fruit, nuts and seeds make for another healthy snack.
9. Flavour food with lots of pepper
Why? Pepper is a strong, dominant flavour that can help you to reduce your taste for salt.
Without salt, meals may seem bland for a couple of days, but your taste buds can easily be retrained.
Add more pepper and, if that doesn’t appeal, try garlic, lemon, ginger, basil or other spicy flavours you enjoy.
After a week, old favourite foods will taste extremely oversalted and your blood pressure will be singing your praises.
10. Ask your doctor about the DASH diet
Or look it up online.
The DASH diet is high in potassium and can be as effective as medication at lowering blood pressure.
In addition to this, and just as important, many high potassium foods are healthy and delicious.
Try dried apricots, fresh bananas and dark chocolate.
A handful of dried apricots has concentrated amounts of potassium, fibre, iron and beta carotene while also being low in kilojoules.
11. Park in the Outer Mongolia of the car park
ll you need is an extra 4000 to 5000 steps a day and you could lower your blood pressure by 11 points.
That’s what researchers found when they tracked postmenopausal women.
12. Hold hands with your partner for 10 minutes
That (plus a brief hug) is all it took in one study to keep blood pressure steady during a stressful incident.
Touch is vital for our health, wellbeing and happiness, say the world’s leading neuroscientists.
13. Sleep with earplugs in tonight
Studies suggest that being exposed to noise while you’re sleeping may increase your blood pressure as well as your heart rate, so block out any noise.
Drawing upon recent scientific research, these tips for superior slumber will help guarantee you wakeful days and blissful nights.
14. Drink orange juice every morning and night
One study found that this lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 7 per cent and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 4.6 per cent – thanks to the high levels of potassium in orange juice.
15. Think about your sleep
Are you waking up tired? Is your partner complaining that you snore a lot? Talk to your doctor. You may have sleep apnoea.
Studies find that half the people who have the condition, in which you stop breathing dozens or hundreds of times during the night, also have hypertension.
16. Eliminate at least one hidden source of salt per day
For instance, did you know that many breakfast cereals contain salt? Who needs salt in their cereal? Find a brand that’s salt-free.
17. Take these supplements daily
Take garlic, fish oil, calcium and CoQ10. All have blood pressure-lowering properties, but check with your doctor before taking them.
18. Practice meditation
Spend five minutes a day sitting in a quiet room repeating this mantra,’One day at a time’. Numerous studies show that meditation eases stress and lowers blood pressure. Other good mantras include: ‘This, too, shall pass’, ‘Breathe’ and ‘Calm, calm, calm’.